Join Lenora Boyle in Italy, the land of passion and possibilities.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Fainting over the Beauty of Italy

My husband and I experienced so much beauty in Italy that we felt faint and overwhelmed at times. Then my friend, Diana, who travels often to Italy, said there was a word to describe it: stendhal syndrome.
Stendhal's Syndrome is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when exposed to art.

It's also called Hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome, is a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art, usually when the art is particularly 'beautiful' or a large amount of art is in a single place. The term can also be used to describe a similar reaction when a person sees immense beauty in the natural world.
It is named after the famous 19th century French author Stendhal (pseudonym of Henri-Marie Beyle), who described his experience with the phenomenon during his 1817 visit to Florence, Italy in his book Naples and Florence: A Journey from Milan to Reggio.

Although there are many descriptions of people becoming dizzy and fainting while taking in Florentine art, especially at the Uffizi, dating from the early 19th century on, the syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence. The syndrome was first diagnosed in 1982.

Have you every felt faint around art and beauty?

photo: Lago di Garda, Lake Garda, Trento, Italy


  1. That's good to know! Hope we have many dizzying experiences of Bliss! ~Nancy

  2. I just know you'll love Italy and the retreat. Experiencing Italy for the first time is so awesome, and don't worry, if you feel like fainting from all the beauty, I'll catch you.

  3. Fainting over the beauty: For me it was from the back of a moped Rich and I took for a day's jaunt around the small island of Lipari, one of the Aeolian Islands just north of Sicily. It was not only the white pumice beaches flowing down into deep Mediterranean blues, not only the colorful turquoise boats with their bright orange fishing nets, it was also the gigantic clumps of blooming geraniums. I had never seen a geranium grow in the wild like that - big round five foot high bushes covered in wild pink geraniums. Mind-blowing to the Iowa gardener who tries to keep going a humble flower pot of them on the back stoop.

  4. Thanks Sallee for your deliciious descriptions of your taste of colorful Italy. We're going to have a wonderful time in paradise in September. So glad you're joining us at the La Dolce Vita Retreat.